'I was just so down. It was the most upsetting part of my career, to be totally honest'

Having put the Ukraine heartbreak behind her, Ireland star Denise O’Sullivan feels ‘anything can happen’ against Germany.

Updated Nov 24th 2020, 12:02 PM

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, says Ireland’s midfield maestro Denise O’Sullivan as they look to produce the spectacular against Germany in their final Euro 2022 qualifier.

A miracle some may say; something the Cork woman believes in.

denise-osullivan-dejected-late-in-the-game Denise O'Sullivan, dejected late in the game against Ukraine. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

But it’s been a difficult few weeks since the Girls In Green’s bitterly disappointing, and quite simply heartbreaking, 1-0 defeat to Ukraine, a hammer blow towards their qualification hopes.

When asked whether it was the toughest night of her colourful career, O’Sullivan doesn’t mince her words.

“Yeah, honestly it was,” she says, later adding that there were plenty of tears in the hours and days that followed.

“It was absolutely devastating. I didn’t get over it for honestly a few weeks later. I went back to Brighton and was just so down.

“It was the most upsetting part of my career, losing that game, to be totally honest. Look, those things make you stronger. You have to take the positives out of it. We weren’t bad on the night. Things just didn’t go our way.

“It’s football. Those nights happen a lot in football. We need to pick ourselves up again. We’ve come back into this camp and we’re very positive. We’re still second in the table and that’s a positive. Here we are for a huge game and we’re just excited to get out there and play.”

But the Knocknaheeny native, on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion from US side North Carolina Courage, says it’s been set aside — and Vera Pauw’s side are ready to face Germany, where they will indeed need a miracle of some sort, to put it plainly.

“After a few weeks you just have to [park it] really because you have another big game coming up. You can’t think about the past any more. I’m past it now and I’ve moved forward, I think we all have and we’ll just move on to the next game.

brighton-hove-albion-v-aston-villa-fa-womens-super-league-peoples-pension-stadium In action for Brighton. Source: PA

“Look, we have to be realistic. Germany are one of the best teams in the world. We’ve seen last time against them at home how good they were and how tough the game was. We’ll have a game-plan, work hard and go out and do our best and hopefully get three points.”

Thankfully, 26-year-old O’Sullivan is a firm believer in miracles — unsurprising considering she was part of the U17 side that beat the same opposition 1-0 in 2010, the senior outfit that went so close against them in 2014, and one that secured a famous 0-0 draw against Netherlands three years ago.

The odds are, again, certainly stacked against them next Tuesday night at Tallaght Stadium, but Ireland will cling on to any bit of hope as they face the world’s second-ranked nation and eight-time European champions, who boast a 100% record in this campaign, scoring 37 goals and conceding zero.

“Anything can happen,” O’Sullivan assures, unsure if the visitors will mix and match their squad, though Ireland will give it all and play whatever is in front of them. “It’s 11 versus 11 and being realistic, Germany are out of this world. But as I said anything can happen.”

Likewise, a Ukrainian slip-up against group minnows Montenegro is unlikely, but it can’t be written off. Anything can happen in sport, after all.

Away from the international scene, O’Sullivan has been plying her trade at Brighton in the Women’s Super League [WSL] alongside Irish team-mates Megan Connolly and Rianna Jarrett; a temporary move closer to home to ensure availability for Ireland amidst Covid-19 restrictions, made even more interesting by the arrival of several US World Cup winners to the league.

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“I’ve been really enjoying it. It’s a challenge and I love challenging myself. Having the two Irish girls helps me settle in and the club have welcomed me with open arms. It’s a tough league as you can see with all the players coming in from around the world.

denise-osullivan-katie-mccabe-megan-campbell-and-megan-connolly Ireland's Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Megan Campbell and Megan Connolly. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It made life easier having the two girls there, Megan has been my friend since I was 15 when we played with each other and against each other. I have got to know Rianna very well since she came into the Irish set-up.

“Living with them is great, Rianna cooks me dinner every night so it’s going really well!”

But having sealed her security Stateside as one of Courage’s protected players ahead of a recent Draft, O’Sullivan remains under contract there and will return ahead of the new season (the NSWL recently announced plans for a Challenge Cup in April ahead of a May 2021 season start).

“I’m very excited to be going back, they’re a world-class team. The environment is world-class and you’re only become a better player being in that arena. Paul [Riley] is one of the best coaches in the world and I’ve learned so much.

“It will be a long season with the pandemic, we will have a tournament and the regular season so there is a lot to look forward to.”

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Emma Duffy

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